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The Inception of a Idea: 5 Unlikely Inspirations For Movies

August 4, 2010 by Simon Kinnear in Features with 0 Comments

So Inception is based on an old Scrooge McDuck comic, eh?

Wouldn’t be the first time that the inception of a movie has been something so off the wall you have to wonder what they were smoking. To wit:

A Christmas card. After writer Philip Van Doren Stern couldn’t get his Yuletide story “The Greatest Gift” published, he stuck it in a card and mailed it out to family and friends. Word-of-mouth brought it to Hollywood’s attention, and it ended up becoming It’s A Wonderful Life.

A skyline. It’s now considered the touchstone of all dystopian visions, but Fritz Lang’s silent sci-fi Metropolis didn’t emerge from a vacuum. Instead, it was a trip to the States that gave Lang the idea for his futuristic cityspace. Seeing the Manhattan skyline for the first time, Lang said, “I thought that it was the crossroads of multiple and confused human forces, blinded and knocking into one another, in an irresistible desire for exploitation, and living in perpetual anxiety.”

A photo. Technically, the inspiration for Top Gun was a 1983 magazine article about the titular fighter pilot programme, but really it was photographer Chuck ‘Heater’ Heatley’s glossy images of proto-Cruisers wearing sci-fi jumpsuits and shit-eating grins that caught the eye of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer.

A theme park ride. Bruckheimer again, of course, who had foresight enough to see that a movie based on Disneyland attraction Pirates of the Caribbean could work as a movie. Having been on said ride, I can testify it’s a pretty cinematic experience, as you sit there in the dark watching animatronic rascals buckle their swashes in a witty pastiche of ye olde pirate movies. The key difference: your seat is on a moving canoe. Perhaps once the 3D craze has died down, that could be the next fad?

An illness. In 1965, Ingmar Bergman was prepping his next film when he was waylaid by pneumonia, further complicated by an ear infection. Bedridden for weeks, a combination of cabin fever and delirium caused him to imagine an image of intertwined faces…which became the creative springboard from which Bergman’s masterpiece Persona was born. EDIT: I’m reliably informed by Clothes on Film that the technical term for Bergman’s ear infection is labyrinthitis. “He had to stare at a spot on the ceiling to stop the room spinning,” and that’s when he started seeing things.

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